Three- to Four-Year-Old Children Rapidly Adapt Their Predictions and Use Them to Learn Novel Word Meanings

Naomi Havron, Alex de Carvalho, Anne Caroline Fiévet, Anne Christophe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adults create and update predictions about what speakers will say next. This study asks whether prediction can drive language acquisition, by testing whether 3- to 4-year-old children (n = 45) adapt to recent information when learning novel words. The study used a syntactic context which can precede both nouns and verbs to manipulate children's predictions about what syntactic category will follow. Children for whom the syntactic context predicted verbs were more likely to infer that a novel word appearing in this context referred to an action, than children for whom it predicted nouns. This suggests that children make rapid changes to their predictions, and use this information to learn novel information, supporting the role of prediction in language acquisition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-90
Number of pages9
JournalChild Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a postdoctoral grant to Naomi Havron from the French Embassy in Israel and the Victor Smor-gon Charitable Fund, and by the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (grants no. ANR-13-APPR-0012, ANR-10-IDEX-0001-02 PSL* and ANR-10-LABX-0087 IEC). We thank Axel Barrault for help with testing; Isabelle Dautriche for help with data analysis; the school and children for their participation, as well as the children who participated in the videos and their parents.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Society for Research in Child Development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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